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Pragmatically Optimistic About Life
“Things are going to get better. Be optimistic.”
Sixteen year old Golda could have bemoaned her life of trying to live down the stigma of her father’s constant trouble making. Drunken stupors, fights, and now much worse. As good as her mother was, and as hard as she tried to make a good home, Golda could never bring friends to her house, and even hated to admit who she was.
Nearing the end of her junior year of high school, Fred Birchfield was going to jail again, this time in Indianapolis, fifty miles away, for killing a man. Maybe it was self-defense. Maybe the guy he killed was no good, and the police were secretly glad to get rid of the man, but her dad would do hard time. Of course, her mother would move to be near him. Golda envisioned another, more optimistic, life for herself.
Golda Harriette perched on the branch steadied by her best friend Lavona. The damp summer air that encased her body in secure warmth, plastered her limp bangs to her head. She loved smell of Crawfordsville, Indiana, the cloying smell of roses climbing the sides of tiny white frame houses, and the subtle clean smell of gladioli. She could watch the showy flowers swaying in the gentle breeze, gleaming along the back fence the morning sun like women in their colorful finery bunched together for an early morning church photo.The mix of the summer’s blooms in the Lavona’s back yard overpowered Golda’s senses, making her dizzy with the joy of life. Taking a deep breath, Golda leaned back her head and grinned at God. Filled to the brim with the happiness she leaned forward and touched Lavona’s shoulder with her cheek sharing her euphoria with her friend.
She could go to Indianapolis with her mother, and maybe she should. but Golda did not see an optimistic future in that. She had taken pains while attending school in her small conservative town to keep her reputation spotless. When Lavona’s mother said she could stay with them until she graduated, Golda hopes took root.
Focusing her thoughts on happy times, Golda considered the many family conversations about Lavona’s handsome older brother, his U.S. Army service picture proudly placed in the center of the mantle. She wasn’t proud of any man in her family. She didn’t remember her grandfather very well, and she didn’t have a brother, younger or older.
Golda had not met Jesse, but Lavona told her how shy he was with girls. Over the months of secret-telling and giggles in Lavona’s bedroom, Golda felt intrigued. Jesse sent presents to his mom from Hawaii, a beautiful hope chest, a manly trunk, and dishes. Golda made plans. When he came back from Hawaii, she would talk to him, be his friend, and draw him out of his shell. He could be her big brother, too, or maybe something more. How could she hope to meet him if she moved to Indianapolis? Golda also dreamed about Frank Gifford in her high school class. She wondered if he would be the one to win her heart completely. She wanted to meet Jesse first.
Martha Birchfield had a confectious belly laugh that made the walls of their tiny home shake. Golda believed her mother’s optimism could belie even national catastrophes, but she also believed that being pragmatic improved optimism. Before she married she planned to go to Normal School and become a teacher. She would be able to provide handsomely for herself until she married.
Although she loved her mother dearly, and knew Martha Birchfield would do almost anything for her, Golda did not want to be like her mother, who got married instead of attending high school, and had her when she was fifteen. Martha’s three older sisters from her grandmother’s first marriage had married, so at age fourteen, Martha Nina Earl optimistically thought she could do the same, and she did. Golda rationalized that her mother’s optimism, though infectious, was often misplaced and impractical. That was not the life she wanted, nor was a man as unstable as Fred Birchfield in her sites. She optimistically thought she could do better.
Golda’s young life did not reflect either the elegance or ennui in the upper class society of the great Gatsby’s acquaintance. Nor did she look or feel destitute. Instinctively and by observing her mother, she knew how to elude poverty by working and saving.
Optimism had crept into the nation’s political and economic fabric. With Sears opening its first store in Chicago in 1925, and its first free-standing store in Evansville, Indiana, the free market system started to blossom. If politics changed and threatened this new exciting lifestyle, Golda could vote, a freedom her mother did not have. This Crawfordsville damsel believed optimistically that growth and wealth would continue into the future.
Jesse Clark came home from World War I where he was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to find a cheerful teenager named Golda living with his family. As shy as he was, he could not escape the charming mental images she painted for the future. The flamboyant roaring twenties promised nothing but good times forever. My grandparents married during these optimistic times. Surrounded by friends and family, they married when the 1920s roared their loudest, July 3, 1925, the year Charles Scribner & Sons published F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Great Gatsby. They could have attend the first performance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1925, driving the luxurious the Chrysler Six, Walter Chrysler’s first design. As first child born in the family since Golda’s only daughter, I spent most of my preschool years being chauffeured between my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s homes. They spoiled me silly. They infected affected me by encouraging me to think I could do anything I wanted to do, in spite of having a double harelip.
At the time, I guess that being born with a harelip was considered quite a handicap. I didn’t learn until I was an adult that the Nazis threw out babies with harelips as though they were trash, and I was born just six years after they lost control of the world. The dreams and optimism that drove my life forward stemmed from a lineage of both heredity and training from three optimistic women.
Optimism is child’s play coupled with determined hard work.
Speaking of hard work, I have started a blog specifically for writing and blogging tips. If you love this blog, or know people who want to be part of the writing experience, please follow my new blog for writers called Just Write or follow my professional writer’s Facebook page, TC History Gal Productions . Thanks so much!
Hope you enjoyed a trip back in the history of my mother’s family. For additional optimistic entries, click here or on the WP camera.